We practice “refectory reading” during our midday meal, the main meal of the monastic day. St. Benedict specifies that the monks should eat in silence and one of the monks should read to the community while they are eating. Often, we are listening to a work of history or biography–monastic biography, for example–a book about monastic practices or even science or travel. During Advent and Holy Week, Abbot Robert tries to find some reading more appropriate to the Liturgical Season
This Advent we are listening to Sherry A. Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus. It’s a relatively short book published by Our Sunday Visitor and one that Bishop Loverde has given to each priest of the Diocese of Arlington for the Year of Faith to stumulate the “new evangelization” begun by Pope John Paul II and restimulated by Pope Benedict this year. This book reminds us that Catholics are not just drifting away from the Church but are actively leaving for other Christian churches to discover the environment and support for discipleship to Christ. Our past Catholic culture–or cultural Catholicism–is failing to produce disciples for Christ. Despite our doctrine, our sacraments, our theological and mystical traditions, all of which could deepen our discipleship, Catholics too often fail to know Jesus Christ and the Gospel, fail to form a deep and living relationship with the personal God who reaches out to us in the New Covenant. This book examines that phenomenon and suggests some perspectives and strategies to get us back on the right track.
There’s an important ecumenical dimension here: the Protestant churches have much to teach us about discipleship and about devotion to the living word of God. Ave Maria Press, a Catholic publisher, offers a stimulating book by an American Anglican Rector in Boston. Rev. Timothy Clayton’s Exploring Advent with Luke: Four Questions for Spiritual Growth is a stimulating guide to solid lectio divina. Fr. Timothy considers only the “Infancy Narrative” of St. Luke’s Gospel from the perspective of our post-modern malaise and engages the reader’s imagination to make the Gospel come alive and question ourselves, break open our capacity for faith and discipleship. What a stimulating way to deepen our Advent journey!